Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD Policy Blogs


“Aid as Religion” and CGD’s Pakistan Report

In a recent blog post, Pakistani economist Anjum Altaf lambasted our recent report on the US development approach to Pakistan, “More Money, More Problems,” for not being sufficiently skeptical of the US development program, especially the US aid program, in Pakistan. Dr. Altaf criticized our 2011 report too. You can review last year’s discussion here.

Supporting Pakistan’s Democratic Machinery

It’s not a stretch to say that United States-Pakistan relations are at a low point. Indeed, it seems just when Washington and Islamabad think bilateral relations cannot get any worse, they inevitably do. The latest fallout stems from the accidental NATO bombing in November 2011 of Pakistani military outposts, resulting in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan immediately shut down critical NATO supply routes and the negotiations to re-open them have gone nowhere. To add insult to injury, Pakistan faces a slew of minor crises on its home front, relating to the economy, politics, and of course, security. In Washington, support for civilian assistance to Pakistan is rapidly waning. With this as background, the United States is also undergoing two major personnel transitions in Islamabad. U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter and USAID Mission Director Andrew Sisson have both announced their intention to step down this summer. This staff turnover, while a distraction in the short run, also provides an opportunity for the United States to re-brand its civilian assistance program in Pakistan. Our latest open letter to Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides urges the United States to support Pakistan’s “democratic machinery” with more USAID innovation, stronger Pakistani think tanks and research groups, and more independent media.

Civilian Assistance to Pakistan: Time for Tough Choices

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stated that the United States will be working to significantly decrease the number of development projects it is currently supporting in Pakistan, from the current 140 to 35 by the end of September 2012. In Dr. Shah’s words, “If we [the U.S.] are trying to do 140 different things, we are unlikely to do things at scale in a way that an entire country of 185 million people can see and value and appreciate. We are just far more effective and we deliver much more value to American taxpayers when we concentrate and focus and deliver results.” Shah goes on to clarify that the United States will not be cutting back on the overall amount of assistance it provides: it plans to adhere to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman framework of $7.5 billion over 5 years.

I applaud Administrator Shah’s call for greater focus in the U.S. assistance portfolio and his explicit emphasis on “results.” After all, as my colleague Connie Veillette has pointed out, the Obama Administration’s Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on global development explicitly called for greater emphasis on “selectivity” and “results” in U.S. development assistance.